It’s not uncommon during the election cycle for business owners to complain to politicians about cumbersome regulations that sap their time and resources.
The Connecticut Department of Labor tried to ease the burden on business owners in 2002 when it launched a new hire reporting website where employers could simply enter new employee information online.
There’s just one problem: the website hasn’t worked for three years.
DOL’s process for reporting new hires to the state involves going to their website — where they can print out a form and fax it in.
That’s right. To comply with the law, business owners must either lick a stamp or have access to fax technology straight out of 1998.
DOL Spokeswoman Nancy Steffens says DOL discontinued the site when the agency determined security features needed to be updated and federal budget cuts delayed the process.
“Federal cuts (less staff) require the agency to prioritize IT projects, with most resources currently dedicated to modernization of the Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Tax system, scheduled to be completed in 2020,” Steffens wrote in an email.
According to the Federal Welfare Reform Act and CT General Statute 31-254(b), employers are required to report new employees to the Department of Labor within 20 days of hiring them so that their wages can be garnished in the event they’re deadbeat parents.
Even a 16-year-old washing dishes in the kitchen of the local diner isn’t exempt from the regulation on the off-chance he may be a father who owes late child support payments. “Neither age nor occupation is a factor in the reporting of new hires,” states the DOL website.
That means every time an owner hires someone, he or she has to submit a copy of the employee’s W4 — which specifies how much the employer needs to withhold from an employee’s paycheck — to the Department of Labor’s Office of Research within 20 days.
The W4 itself instructs the employer to either fax or mail the form to the DOL or go to the website at www.ctnewhires.com and follow the directions — which in turn just tell the employer to fax or mail the form.
There are no procedures for either emailing or submitting the information online unless an owner knows how to use File Transfer Protocol, which is a techy way of uploading data. FTP requires a highly specific format for submitting the data that is likely beyond the capabilities of most mom-and-pop businesses.
“Small and medium businesses fax in their new hires while large companies can use FTP,” Steffens said.
Steffens added that updating the Unemployment and Insurance Benefits system will eventually lead to a fresh website for reporting new hires that actually allows business owners to do so online. However, there’s no word on when that will occur.
Until then, business owners are left with printing out a form, filling it out, and either dropping it in the mail or listening to the screechy handshake at the end of a phone line.